Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Fifty Names of Marduk

[This is an extract from  'The Fifty Names of Marduk', a chapter in The Sacred History of Being, published November 2, 2015]

....The relevant passage of the Enuma Elish begins by announcing ‘Let us proclaim his fifty names…. He whose ways are glorious, whose deeds are likewise.' The first name is of course Marduk. His first description identifies him as An, the Sumerian king of the gods, and describes An as his father, who ‘called him from his birth…’. This refers to the fact that Marduk was not present in the first chaotic creation, before reason and order was imposed.  So we are told that he is An, who is also his divine father. He is not presented as an aspect of An, except in genealogical terms. He is actually the god An.

His ways are described: Marduk is he

Who provides grazing and drinking places, enriches their stalls,
Who with the flood-storm, his weapon, vanquished the detractors,
(And) who the gods, his fathers, rescued from distress.
Truly, the Son of the Sun, most radiant of gods is he.
In his brilliant light may they walk forever!
On the people he brought forth, endowed with life ,

There is a short gap in the text, and the description of his ways continues:

The service of the gods he imposed that these may have ease.
Creation, destruction, deliverance, grace-
Shall be by his command. They shall look up to him!

Marduk therefore has the attributes understood to be necessary for kingship, and also has the property of the power to ensure that the requirements of mankind are met. Another of his functions is to provide support for the gods, for their comfort and well-being. One of the ways in which man can be cajoled into serving the gods is through his divine prerogative – his power to command creation, destruction, deliverance, and the bestowing of divine favour. Awe is the desired response in man. These are abstract concepts, in the proper sense of being concepts apart from specified and concrete instances. The list is a list of abstractions.

He is also being identified with the sun god Shamash. 'Truly, the Son of the Sun, most radiant of gods is he. In his brilliant light may they walk forever!' The son and the father are conflated. So Marduk has all the attributes of the Sumerian king of Heaven, An, and of the sun god Shamash, the god of justice. The greatness of Marduk is due to the fact he has these attributes, and to the extent that he is both of these gods. In terms of the creation of the rational world however, he is presented as a son.

The second name of Marduk is given as Marukka, and is described as the god who is creator of all, and who gladdens the heart of the nameless Anunnaki, and appeases them. Marutukku is the third name of Marduk, and is described as ‘the refuge of the land,’ and the protection of its people. He is the focus of the people’s praise. This clearly represents the importance of there being space available in the universe for man to live, and in which the land provides support for man, as an analogue of man’s support for the gods.

So Marduk, as Marukka, is also the creator of all. The Annunaki, as the text says, are nameless. This has always seemed rather mysterious in the past. But once divinity is understood in terms of definition of powers and attributes, then it is logical to assume that there are other undefined divinities, and these deserve respect until they are called forth by Marduk. The third name follows on immediately, and clarifies the role of the second name of Marduk. Marutukku is the 'refuge of the land.' The creator of the all is responsible for precisely that, and 'the all' is more than just the world of the finite in which mankind lives. So Marutukku is the totality of the 'refuge of the land.'

[End of Extract]


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  2. Hola Thomas, un tema muy interesante, pero como mi conocimiento al respecto es básico, me gustaría poder ampliar la lectura para el saber de dicho estudio. *(Hi Thomas, a very interesting topic, but as my knowledge is basic about it, I would like to expand reading for knowledge of the study). Gracias. Cordiales saludos.

    1. Hello Consul Leonardo, and thanks for your comment. This post is an extract from a complete chapter in 'The Sacred History of Being', which covers the subject in some detail. There are several other chapters in the book which fill out the intellectual background to Mesopotamian ideas of the divine. Best wishes, Thomas.